Democracy Arsenal

« Bolton and his predecessors | Main | Wolfowitz: Dreaming of Nixon to China »

March 16, 2005

Democracy confronts the superpower
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

Yesterday Italy announced it was pulling its troops out of Iraq. The reason? While he did not put it this way, everyone knows that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is preoccupied with his prospects for reelection in 2006. While the country’s participation in the war has always been deeply unpopular, an incident two weeks ago in which U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint fired on and killed a bodyguard who was shepherding an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped to safety brought the matter to a political boiling point.

Many are making the point that these developments undercut the Administration’s claim of a broad coalition on Iraq. But they also underscore a point I made during the Summer of 2003 Dissent magazine in relation to the crisis in the UN Security Council over Iraq: that in a world that is increasingly comprised of democracies, the role of the U.S. as superpower may get more rather than less complex. The article contains many other examples of countries wherein local political forces overrode what the U.S. expected would be unflinching loyalty to American policy interests.

For a long time, the U.S. was fairly plain about the fact that it preferred friendly dictators to wily and uncontrollable democracies. But over time that principle became unsustainable as a matter of principle and, moreover, impractical in that said dictatorships tended to be less stable than they looked and – once they collapsed - - the U.S. bore part of the blame for the miseries suffered under them. The policy has now come full-circle with the last outpost of U.S. backing for authoritarian regimes – the Middle East– now beginning to undergo its own transformation. President Bush has declared that the era of U.S. support for anti-democratic Arab sheiks and monarchs is over, and that from now on Washington will be working to help democracy take root.

The question is whether the Bush Administration is nimble enough to ensure that as democracy becomes more widespread, we do not confront a growing number of enfranchised electorates that don’t like U.S. policies and don’t let their chosen leaders go along with us. With anti-Americanism at an all-time high and U.S. efforts to explain and promote our policies abroad an acknowledged failure, it is not surprising that public attitudes in democracies are not breaking our way.

But in a world in which we are surrounded by democracies, superpower fiat won’t work in the way it traditionally did. Winning the support of others will depend not just on holding economic and military sway, nor even on cordial relationships with leaders around the world. We will also have to ensure that U.S. policies enjoy sufficient popular support so that our allies will not have to turn their backs on their own publics in order to side with us. The Italian and Ukrainian pull-outs are only the latest examples demonstrating that where U.S. policies are pitted against local political prerogatives in a democracy, the latter will win the day.

Italy is not the only country where homegrown political pressures have stood in the way of continued cooperation with the U.S. on Iraq. Newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced earlier this week that that country would likewise be pulling out its small contingent of troops. Ukrainians have always opposed their country’s involvement in Iraq but under Yushchenko’s predecessor, strongman Leonid Kuchma did not much care. After all, he did not consider himself accountable to an electorate. But Yushchenko, though he owes his accession in no small part to democratic assistance efforts and political support from Washington, was quick to put local opinion above fealty to the superpower. A year ago Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero ran on an antiwar platform and, once elected, swiftly withdrew that country’s troops from Iraq.

For this and many other reasons, progressives should not be hanging their heads in despair because Bush has stolen all that’s best of our traditional policies (see Jeff Goldberg’s New Yorker piece this week). By trying to mix promotion of democracy with his ham-handed approach to diplomacy and talent for antagonizing others, there’s a risk that the widening of democracy won’t necessarily mean better cooperation with others, and more allies in support of U.S. positions and policies. Coupled with genuine willingness to listen to others and greater respect for democratic norms both at home and in our actions abroad, a policy focused on extending democracy should help strengthen the support for American policies around the world. In other words, the criticisms of Administration policies as unilateralist and tone-deaf are by no means cancelled out by this newfound emphasis and early successes in promoting democracy.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Democracy confronts the superpower:


He was more than a bodyguard - he was the Italian equivalant of a CIA agent and had negotiated the hostage's release - he also protected the former hostage as the bullets came flying in from US troops - he died a hero and was buied by the state as one...

Thank you for your sharing.!

Thank you for your sharing! I like i very much!

I loved the editorial BE.It is very interesting.Thank you for the information.

Great article, Very funny!!

Great article, Very funny!!

bak güzelim.
en azdırıcı porn videoları,
en güzel porn izleme sitesi,
en muhteşem sex izleme yeri,
en kaliteli anal porno mekanı,
bu sitede en tatlı amatör porno kızları bulunuyor,
en kral sikiş videoları,
en uzun porno videoları,
türk pornoda olay var..
gel işte buraya

en kaliteli porno videolar,
en güldüren komik videolar ve
en güncel porn videolar bu sitelerde izlenir

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use